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Spartan Spotlight with senior Hannah Rajlich

2020 St. Joseph-Ogden High School grad Hannah Rajlich likes to cook. Either way, that's probably a good thing considering her chosen career path in studying the science of food.

Hannah Rajlich runs her leg of the 4x800 relay at the IHSA state track meet in 2018. The third-place finish helped SJO secure the Class 1A state title that year. Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks
This fall, the two-sport athlete in cross county and track athlete whose dream is one day becoming an Olympic team nutritionist, will move to College Station, Texas, where she will join the Department of Nutrition and Food Science at Texas A&M. She said she likes baking more than cooking.

"My favorite (thing to make) would have to be Oreo cheesecake," Rajlich admitted. "I learned to bake by myself, but my grandma was the one who got me into it when I was young."

She is not afraid to experiment in the kitchen and like the races she ran the last four seasons with the Spartans, she doesn't give up when things don't necessarily go right the first time.

"I actually don’t have many kitchen failures," she explained. "One time I did try to make a strawberry pie - when I was like 12? - without a recipe and it didn’t turn out too great."

There are three people she would enjoy having over for a home cooked meal and good conversation. Her top three choices for dinner guests include her grandmother, Taylor Swift, Olympic gold medalist Emma Coburn, who specializes in the steeplechase.

"With my Granny we would just catch up on life," Rajlich said. "With Taylor Swift we would talk about how she became so successful and with Emma Coburn I would ask her about her training and Olympic experience."

Besides baking and spending time in the kitchen, her hobbies include traveling, hanging out with friends and family, and, of course, running.

"My top three places to travel to are Jamaica, Prague, and Bora Bora," Rajlich said. "I’ve been to Jamaica a few times now, and it’s my favorite place to travel to, plus I have so many good memories with my family there!"

She has also been to Prague in the past, too. She can't wait to return there in the future. The capital city in Czech Republic city is known for its architecture and is home of the Trdelnik, a sweet treat like a cinnamon roll which is wrapped around a pole, grilled, and then topped with a walnut mix and sugar.

"That's where my Dad is from, and where my grandparents grew up," said the St. Joseph native, who has four siblings, two older brothers, one younger sister, and one younger brother.

The South Pacific paradise of Bora Bora is at the top of her list of places she has visit and you can't really blame her.

Rajlich said, "It has always been my "dream' vacation because of the beautiful beaches and the unique location."

When she was not competing or doing training runs, Rajlich was involved in with National Honor Society, on Student Council and in Spanish Club at SJO. She also was a member of AMP and in the Spartans' student cheering section, Maroon Platoon.

Her advice for future SJO students is to get involved and to soak in the whole high school experience because it goes by so fast.

Despite not having a senior track season due to the Covid-19 Pandemic this spring, Rajlich leaves SJO with seven IHSA state medals and a pair of All-State ones to boot. She played a major role in running program bringing home the five state trophies and two championship titles the running program secured during her tenure. Heading into her final season she had high hopes for the SJO running program this spring with her sight set on the Spartans winning one more state trophy before her scholastic running career ended.

"My most memorable medal would have to be my 2016 State Champion XC medal," she said reminiscing about her first prep IHSA state final. Rajlich represented the Spartans in both track and cross country all four years of high school. "I was our team’s fifth runner as a freshman and we won the meet far ahead (of) the second place (team)."

Rajlich runs a lap around Detweiller Park in her last cross country race of her high school career last November. Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks
There is a second medal in her possession, one that she earned her sophomore year during track season, that also carries a fone memory attached to it.

"My second would be my 2018 4x800 3rd place All-State medal, when I ran a PR as our third leg in the pouring rain, helping contribute to our team State Champion trophy."

Her relay squad, featuring junior Rylee Sjuts along with seniors Zea Maroon and Sam Mabry, finished third in that race with a time of 9:51.85. SJO won the Class 1A state title with 43 points besting second place finishers Farmington and St. Teresa, who took third place.

"I have had so many great teammates over the years," she said. "Coming in as a freshman, Keely Smith was someone I really looked up to, and helped me become a leader for our team.

"She did everything right, even when things got really tough for her. And, she is one of the nicest people I know!"

Looking way, way, way into the future, before she retires, Rajlich has a couple of goals she would like to accomplish.

"Before I retire, I would definitely like to work with athletes and maybe have my own practice or business."

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